FROM DOWNTON TO DIEHARD

by evseymour

As soon as I caught a trailer for ‘The Guest’ and witnessed Dan Stevens’ remarkable transformation from foppish pretty boy Matthew Crawley in ‘Downton Abbey’ to lean, mean charismatic former soldier, David, I knew I had to watch the film.

Last Saturday, I did just that. The story starts with the Peterson family who are grieving over the loss of their soldier son. A scene later, David arrives, claiming to have been with the Peterson’s son when he died. If that doesn’t tug at the heartstrings, David tops off his sudden unannounced arrival by delivering personal messages of love from the son to the family. Vulnerable mom invites David in and he soon makes himself at home. He proves to be a godsend, sorting out the Peterson’s young, nerdy son’s bullies in a thrilling act of retribution, and offering a sympathetic ear to Dad who is having a hard time at work. Only the Peterson’s daughter, Anna, sniffs trouble and, naturally, she’s not believed. However it’s largely down to her that David’s cover is blown and his true intentions revealed.

Right up to the three-quarter mark, the plot really works. You’re never quite sure about Stevens although my foe detector was alerted on a couple of occasions, (largely because of Stevens’ steely-eyed gaze.) Notwithstanding this, Stevens’ performance is electric and a mile away from ‘Downton’. He looks deeply at home with either a gun or a snooker cue in his hand (all the better to smash you over the head with). But what the heck happens in the rushed last part of the movie? It’s almost as though someone else wrote the script or was given a deadline to wrap it up as quickly as possible. The result is guns blazing, bodies dropping, one violent act topped by another in a meaningless frenzy. Even if I bought into it, the behaviour of the two survivors is jaw-droppingly unrealistic. After the mayhem, a paramedic asks young son, Luke, how he is. ‘Fine,’ he replies. Really? From what planet does he come?

As for the twist at the very end, words fail me. Watch it for yourself and you’ll see what I mean…

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